There is a light that never goes out

Under 21s give us plenty to be thankful for

Mayo                        4-14

Roscommon        2-15 (AET)

OUTSTANDING: Mayo's Jason Doherty kicked 2-4 on Saturday.

OUTSTANDING: Mayo's Jason Doherty kicked 2-4 on Saturday.

WOW! What a game. On a day when the Irish rugby heroes and Bernard Dunne hit the headlines for their dramatic and outstanding success, TIALTNGO was fortunate enough to be in Charlestown for a game that was the highlight of his day. And if you saw how excited I was watching the rugby and boxing, you’d know that is some statement!

This Connacht U-21 semi-final was utterly captivating as a group of close to 40 young men tried manfully to get over the finish line. In doing so they produced a game so full of twists, turns and drama that the players weren’t the only people short of breath at the end.

It was a complete pleasure and honour to witness and the fact that Mayo triumphed over the Rossies, well I guess that made it all the sweeter.

I reckon some poor souls that were at the game might have missed a lot of the drama. Mayo were three points down in injury-time at the end of normal time and were quite literally out on their feet. It was Roscommon who looked more likely to get the next score and no doubt with the upcoming rugby game in Cardiff in mind, some Mayo folk had enough and headed for the gates.

I can only hope they tuned into Mid West, heard the craic and came back in for extra-time because Mayo went onto snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Three minutes of injury time were played when corner-forward Neil Douglas won a ball he had no right to win in the right corner and was fouled. Conor Jordan floated the free into the goalmouth and after the ball pinballed around the goalmouth for what felt like an eternity, Jason Doherty somehow contrived to get the touch which put the ball in the net.

That the goal was such an unlikely score made it all the more exhilarating and with no time even for the kick-out, we went to extra time where the momentum would have to be with Mayo.

And so it transpired. Mikey Sweeney and sub’ Conor Jordan (2) saw Mayo outscore Roscommon 0-3 to 0-1 in the first half and while Roscommon weren’t out, they were certainly down. Mayo were a lot more resolute this time, compared to when they let slip an eight point lead in normal time.

Jordan exchanged points with Fintan Cregg in the second half and with the gap at two points, you couldn’t rule out a Roscommon sucker punch goal, certainly not in this game. Indeed there were a couple of dangerous loose balls in the Mayo goalmouth, where goalkeeper Robert Hennelly, Aidan O’Shea and Lee Keegan each made crucial interventions.

Even with one minute to go we didn’t dare to think of victory but the heroic Mayo players finally put the result beyond doubt. Sub’ Niall Prenty did superbly to win and keep possession on the left sideline, he set up Cathal Carolan who in turn set free the rampaging Tom Parsons.

IMMENSE: Tom Parsons ruled the middle of the field on Saturday.

IMMENSE: Tom Parsons ruled the middle of the field on Saturday.

He swallowed up the ground before placing Neil Douglas through on goal. The man known as ‘Douggie’ showed remarkable clam to finish underneath Mark Miley and finally we could get ahead of ourselves and bask in the glory of victory.

That shrill noise sounded one minute later, the Rossies were understandably dejected while elation surrounded the Mayo team and management. Given the nature of the game it was a result which will be of tremendous benefit to the character of the winners while it is a shattering blow to the losers.

That they played in one of the better games I’ve ever seen won’t be much consolation to Roscommon.

Much was talked about the Rossies ahead of the game, three years after their Minor All-Ireland glory. Thirteen of that team started yesterday and they will certainly form the basis of the Rossie senior side for  years to come.

But Mayo hit the ground running, with the wind at their backs. Tom Parsons lorded the midfield while full-forward Jason Doherty looked a class apart all through. He kicked two beautiful points from play after Cathal Freeman put Mayo in front with a free.

Freeman got injured however and had to depart in the first quarter. He was a big, big loss but Mayo soldiered on. Cathal Carolan was immense in midfield while Frank Burke got through a pile of work from wing-forward. Burke and Carolan aren’t the most stand out of footballers but their contribution to this Mayo team is huge, make no mistake.

Mayo led 0-5 to 0-2 before they struck for the first of the game’s six goals. Jason Doherty saw his effort smash off the bar but Neil Douglas won the rebound and cracked a tremendous strike into the top-right corner.

Douglas did superbly for the second goal, just before half-time. Frank Burke’s ball in his direction had a lot of weight on this and Douglas superbly stepped back while his man got caught too far in front. The Mitchels man raced in on goal, squared for Doherty who finished to the net.

The seven point half-time lead (2-5 to 0-4) was extended to eight  when Doherty pointed after Carolan did very well to force a turnover. We were looking good but among the several strings this Roscommon side have to their bow is immense character. They don’t give up.

Conor Devaney came on at half-time and made a big difference (why he didn’t start is very surprising) and he set-up the first goal – sending a speculative ball into the goalmouth which Cregg won and rifled to the back of the net.

Roscommon won the kick-out and had their second goal in sixty seconds. Donal Shine sent in a high, speculative ball which Robert Hennelly got caught under. The inrushing David O’Gara had momentum on his side and he rose above Hennelly to fist to the net.

We were in a world of trouble. Kevin McLoughlin had to go to corner-back to deal with Devaney but it resulted in a very shapeless half-back line (as an aside McLoughlin and Kevin Keane were superb in defence). We got the next two scores with points from Carolan and Robert Hennelly (a ’45) but they weren’t the reassuring scores that we thought they might be.

The Rossies scored the next six points without reply to give them a three point lead with four minutes to go as Mayo seemed to be wilting. Mikey Sweeney cut the gap to two with a great point but the rampant Kevin Higgins made it a three point game once more with two minutes left.

The same Higgins kicked a point effort just wide in injury time which would have given Roscommon the insurance point.

It didn’t look like it would matter the way Mayo were going but Jason Doherty proved the drama wasn’t over.

Mayo: R Hennelly (0-1, ’45); E Reilly, K Keane, J Broderick; D Vaughan (0-1), L Keegan, K McLoughlin; T Parsons (0-1), C Carolan (0-1); F Burke, A O’Shea, C Freeman (0-1, f); N Douglas (2-0), J Doherty (2-4, 1f), M Sweeney (0-2). Subs: B Gallagher for Freeman (inj.); S Prendergast for Broderick; C Jordan (0-3, 1f) for Gallagher; N Prenty for Burke; B Gallagher for Parsons (inj.).


2 Responses to “There is a light that never goes out”

  1. 1 albany March 24, 2009 at 9:10 am

    thamks TIALTNGO I really enjoyed your match report it was my first job monday morning when i hit the office no broadband at home.
    Wasn’t in c’ town listning to bits on M W in hotel reception, sounds like our lads got out of jail but when they did they stayed out
    Fair play to ros they have raised the bar at underage and pushed us hard last few years pity we lacked the killer instinct last yr at u 21 v Kerry and in minor final both games for the talking. Anyway the scene is set now, but cool heads and brave hearts needed I have no doubt the talent in there on both sides of the line attitude will win in the tight ones we had it Saturday ……… hope we keep it

  2. 2 thereisalightthatnevergoesout March 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Your welcome Albany. Yeah the Rossies have really put in a big effort and they were very confident about this team so to beat them was a great achievement. Our lads certainly have the potential but the loss of big leads to Galway and now Roscommon is worrying. Sligo won’t be a walk in the park either. Here’s hoping though.

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